Tag Archives: loudspeakers

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

Swimming upstream

There are a number of old sayings about the futility of swimming upstream or battling rising tides.

It’s better to work with something than fight against it.

Like one’s stereo room.

Our rooms can be our friends and partners or they can be a constant headache.

Which is one reason I prefer diffusers over absorbers, subwoofers placed in areas of the room different than the main loudspeakers, and moving one’s listening chair to the perfect place.

Whenever you’re in the setup mode don’t forget to work with the room rather than against it.

Partners make life better.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

REL loudspeakers make some of the best subwoofers in the world. Owner and chief bassifier, John Hunter, is nothing short of a magician when it comes to setting up a stereo system.

John gets the true purpose of a subwoofer. To fill in for the main speaker.

A perfectly set up subwoofer disappears. Only the main speakers seem to be working.

Which can be a bit of a visual struggle when you see a stack of 8 subs (4 per side) next to the main speakers.

One might think the room is going to boom like nothing you’ve ever heard. Time to nail down the pant legs when when the music starts.

And yet, the sound is perfect. The subs disappear. The main speakers are perfect.

It’s why so many folks get the purpose of subwoofers wrong. It’s why more subs are typically better than fewer (it’s the room we’re battling).

Subs give visually false clues. They look like they’re ready to overpower the room.

But when set up right, they no longer exist.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

Very good analogy from Paul

Distortion vs. spice

When we add to an avocado a pinch of salt, a sprinkle of paprika, and a spot of lemon, we’re distorting it. It is no longer that pure, green, fresh-cut perfection.

But it tastes better.

I wonder if the same applies to our stereos. We’re all so ingrained with the notion that distortion is an ugly word. That doing anything outside the realm of purity is a sin.

And yet we are alright with manipulating the frequency response curves of loudspeakers as long as it falls within the accepted parameters of the practical.

There are no perfect amplifiers or speakers. None are truly pure.

I see no harm in adding a bit of spice here and there if it makes it sound better.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Crapshoots

What’s the old saying about risks vs. rewards?

Here we are worried about when to plant tomatoes. Too early and we risk the frost killing them. Too late and we have a weak crop. Get it just right and life’s good. Do nothing and no chance of tomatoes.

There are always risks to stepping outside our comfort zone: taking the plunge for new loudspeakers, choosing a new album of an unknown artist, trying that tweak that seems nuts.

For some, the risk of risk seems so daunting as to lock them into taking zero action at all. And I feel that’s a shame.

If the worst that happens is a missed opportunity or a wrong choice, that seems to me to be a small price to pay relative to having something wonderful happen.

But, that’s just me.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Stereo or mono reflections

My friend, Keith Howard, wrote me a wonderfully insightful note that I will share with you.

“I find it helpful to think of reflections as mono or stereo, in the manner of Manfred Schroeder when he performed his analysis of concert hall acoustics and confirmed the importance of lateral reflections.

Sidewall reflections are ‘stereo’ because they arrive at the ears from wider angles than the loudspeakers, so they increase interaural disparity (hence spaciousness). All other room first-order reflections (floor, ceiling, back wall, front wall) are ‘mono’ because they arrive at the ears at narrower angles than the loudspeakers and so reduce interaural disparity.

I’m not a fan of quelling side-wall reflections as you are, but if you do it then it’s essential not to mess with the spectrum of the reflection. Simple absorbers are bad news because they are more effective at treble frequencies than lower frequencies, so the spectral disparity between direct and reflected sound is increased, as if the reflected sound came from further off-axis. Why do speakers usually sound better pointed straight down the room? Because this results in smaller disparity than if the speakers are toed-in.

Keith

PS. Worth reading: https://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=3200 – published in 1979 but nobody took any notice!

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Totally agree with this one.

Living with rectangles

Hopefully, your stereo listening room is not square. A square room with all dimensions being equal is a recipe for the worst room modes possible.

Fortunately, most of our rooms where we hope to set up a stereo system are not 8’x8’x8′. (If this happens to be your situation, consider a near-field listening setup instead).

For the most part, our rooms are rectangles where the challenges are fewer but decisions still need to be made.

One of the most common questions I get is whether to place the speakers on the long wall or the short wall. Fire into the length of the room and deal with the loudspeakers being too close to the side walls or deal with your seating position so close to the rear wall?

Of course, the easy answer is to try it both ways but that’s a royal pain in the keester.

My best advice is to almost always point the speakers so they fire down the longest dimension in the room.

It’s been my experience that it’s easier to tame the sidewall problems with diffusers and absorbers than it is to limit one’s self to dealing with the lack of space behind the listener and the speaker.

When it comes to rectangles, the benefits of space behind you and the speakers outweigh the problems of a narrow room.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Speaker quality and soundstage

I am often asked if one must have a killer set of loudspeakers in order to experience the wonders of a great soundstage.

Fortunately, the answer is no. In fact, almost any decent pair of speakers from a hundreds of dollars pair of Elacs, to an old pair of vintage beasts you haul out of storage, soundstage is almost entirely based upon setup skills.

You’ve likely been to audio shows and heard great soundstaging. While at those shows you might also have noticed a huge divergence of setups from straight ahead placement without much toe in at all, to pulling all the way out to the sidewalls and aiming the speakers directly at the sweet spot.

As I describe in The Audiophile’s Guide, much about how speakers are set up has to do with the speaker’s performance. A speaker with flat off-axis response is going to generally want to have only a slight amount of toe in while the opposite is true with a speaker whose flattest response is on-axis (speakers pointing directly at the listener). While this is not universally true, it might help you to figure out which approach to take.

The major differences between the two main approaches—speakers 8 or so feet apart, tweeter to tweeter with only a little toe in vs. left and right speakers pulled out to the sides and pointed inwards—is how the soundstage is presented. In the first scenario, we get a natural sounding stage with at times (when close-miked) the sound coming from the speakers themselves, but with the advantage of extending well beyond the left and right speakers. In the second scenario, we never get sound from the loudspeakers but the slight downside is that the entire soundstage is contained between left and right speakers, never quite filling the room.

With those qualifiers in mind, it may be helpful to know that just about any speaker can reproduce the illusion of a soundstage if you know how to set them up.

Knowledge and skill are a lot less expensive than speakers.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Would love to hear, or at least read a review of these new loudspeakers from PS Audio!

Have speakers. Will travel.

It took me literally years before the proverbial lightbulb in my head went aha! as to the meaning of actor Richard Boone’s character, Paladin’s calling card.

Have gun. Will travel.

Talk about dense. I mean, it was the title of the show after all. Just one of those things where you register something as a thing rather than words with meaning.

All that to get in position to share with you how the actual packaging of a complete pair of FR30s looks as they leave PS Audio on their journey to anxious customers.

Designer, Chris Brunhaver stands next to his life’s work.

Note the cool cardboard pyramids atop each of the pallets. Turns out shipping companies are fond of stacking one pallet on top of another.

Our shipping company manager, Suzie with Aeronet has made the FR30’s white glove delivery service her personal mission to exceed customer expectations. Though I doubt any of the movers will have actual white gloves on, her pro team will unbox the FR30s and set them up where you tell them to.

One set of the two you see pictured here are on their way to Kansas, the other set to Illinois. For those in the UK, a set of FR30s are winging their way over to Signature Sounds where Kevin Akam is going to set them up for audition by appointment.

We’ve still got a few opening for August reservations left if you’re interested.

Sure feels good to be shipping speakers.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I saw this and when I looked up Masimo, I figured a mistake. Glad I don’t own stock in Masimo.

Strange bedfellows

Here’s a puzzle. What do Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Polk Audio, Marantz, Definitive Technology, Classé, Boston Acoustics, hassle-free thermometers, sleep aids, and an electronic whizbang that checks your pulse have in common?

If your answer is “I haven’t a clue” you wouldn’t be alone.

In a press release reported in Business Wire, Sound United, the holding company that owns the aforementioned audio brands is being acquired for $1 billion by Masimo, a personal health care company. Sounds like a win for Sound United, but the health care company?

While perhaps not as bizarre as when Harman International sold its brands (Infinity, JBL, among them) to Beatrice Foods, it certainly makes me scratch my head. (That marriage enriched Sydney Harman but didn’t last long and cost Beatrice millions in losses).

Investors in the health care company didn’t seem too impressed either. Following the announcement of the acquisition, Masimo’s shares tanked by 35%. In response, Masimo’s CEO, Joe Kiani defended the reasoning behind the acquisition:

“We see significant opportunities to cross-leverage technologies, bringing Masimo’s clinically superior solutions into the home and on-the-go as well as bringing Sound United’s premium technologies into the hospital to advance our hospital automation connectivity and cloud-based technologies.”

Say what?

Maybe B and W will add personal heart monitors into their loudspeakers to make sure you’re having a good sonic experience or perhaps the next time you’re unlucky enough to spend time in the hospital your bedside entertainment system will be thanks to Marantz.

Strange.

*ht to Bill Leebens for this story.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I agree!!

Hybrid speakers

In yesterday’s post, I riffed on the subject of panel loudspeakers and their lack of bass and dynamics.

We all love thin-film drivers like ribbons, planars, and electrostats because of what they do right—effortlessly reproduce sound.

That benefit of speed, transparency, and effortlessness can extend down in frequency all the way to 20Hz. Amazing if you’re employing it in limited loudness environments like headphones.

Not so practical if you’re trying to move big volumes of air at lower frequencies.

Over the years, manufacturers have schemed on how to solve the problem.

One obvious approach is using brute force, like the giant Soundlabs electrostats. These floor-to-ceiling beasts have dynamics, bass, and speed. The holy grail of panels.

They are not for the faint of heart.

Or, the Infinity IRSV. Floor to ceiling ribbons with a hybrid subwoofer.

Even better than the Soundlabs, but still a major commitment in internal real estate and finances.

A more practical approach is that of Martin Logan. Because panel speakers are very directional, ML came up with a clever curved panel. To solve the bass problem of not being able to move air, they created a hybrid by integrating a built-in conventional subwoofer.

This approach almost solved the problem. What it missed is the all important midbass—the frequency range where most of music’s dynamics lurk.

In the end, what we’ve learned is that in order to have it all in a form that is practical we need thin-film drivers (where the diaphragm’s mass is less than the air it is moving) covering the frequency range of the highest notes all the way down to where we get into the midbass area. There we need lightning-fast pistonic drivers capable of moving mountains of air.

And that is exactly how the PS Audio FR30 came to be what it is.